What began as an exercise program to help improve lives and empower people living with Parkinson’s disease has grown into the birth of the Parkinson’s Resource Center @ Louisiana Tech.
“This new center will include four Louisiana Tech nursing students who will spend the year immersing themselves in a holistic picture of Parkinson’s disease, becoming aware of available resources, working with Dr. Haskins and myself, and participating in community outreach efforts,” said Dr. Donna Hood, director of Tech’s award-winning Division of Nursing. “This year-long experience of mentoring and professional growth will be evaluated with the potential for serving as a national model.”
The shared sweat and passion behind the new center belongs to the Tech team of Hood and Dr. Tara Haskins. In recognition of their difference-making creative work, both to further nursing education and to improve patient care for those with Parkinson’s disease, Hood and Haskins have received the 2018 Edmond J. Safra Visiting Nurse Faculty (VNF) Program Annual Alumni Award for 2018.
Hood and Haskins, holder of the Lincoln General-Glenwood Endowed Professorship, will accept congratulations and a $1,000 stipend to further their work during a short ceremony in Birmingham when VNF training takes place in mid-October at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where both Hood and Haskins trained in the VNF program in October of 2017 and took their first steps toward becoming what’s officially referred to as a Edmond J. Safra Visiting Nurse Scholar at the Parkinson’s Foundation.
At the VNF training in October, they’ll also share some of their experiences from the past year.
Then in June of 2019, the pair plan to attend the World Parkinson Congress in Kyoto, Japan to receive the actual award. Gwyn Vernon, nurse practitioner at the University of Pennsylvania’s Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center in Philadelphia and national director of the VNF Program at the Parkinson’s Foundation in Miami, will make the presentation.
The VNF program serves as part of the mission of the Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence, founded to help individuals and families living with PD and other movement disorders, achieve the highest possible quality of life. Created in 2007 with support from the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation, the Center is part of the legacy of the late Edmond J. Safra, a banker who supported humanitarian causes and organizations around the world.
The VNF program hosts several trainings each year at university-based movement disorder centers. Nurse faculty are selected through a competitive application process, then trained in classroom and clinical conditions before becoming a member of a support group and then completing a mentored independent project benefitting nursing education and/or patient care in Parkinson’s disease.
Each year the host coordinators vote on a prior year VNF scholar to receive the Annual Alumni Award. This year, Hood and Haskins earned the honor.
Haskins’ initial interest in Parkinson’s began at a home Tech football game when Tech’s fitness and wellness coordinator Chad Spruell and local physical therapist Jeff Johnson were introducing Tech tailgaters to Rock Steady, a community exercise program using boxing training techniques to help people with PD. “I’m a sucker for fitness so…,” said Haskins. “This really spoke to my interest in health promotion and motivating people to craft their own wellness journey.”